Amazon Prime Film Studios appears to be struggling having been unable to produce a box office hit since the end of 2017.
The division has so far been responsible for ten movies that have been released in theaters – all of them floundering.
Amazon.com Inc hired Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, to run its television and movie studio in February of this year.
Amazon’s video budget ballooned to an estimated $4.5 billion or more in 2017 and is believed to be even more in 2019
Amazon Prime appointed a new president, Jennifer Salke, to run its film division in February
Her hiring ended months of limbo as its entertainment division switched from a lineup heavy on art-house fare to more broader-appealing hits.
Amazon’s former studio chief, Roy Price, resigned after a sexual harassment allegation. Price has contested the claim. Meanwhile, veteran exec Bob Berney is leaving his post as chief of marketing and distribution.
Salke had overseen the development of comedies and dramas for NBC as president since 2011. She was behind shows such as ‘This is Us,’ ‘The Blacklist,’ and ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,’ and previously was executive vice president of creative affairs at Twentieth Century Fox Television.
However, despite her ‘impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork,’ she appears so have so far made little impact in Amazon’s bottom line according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Amazon’s video budget ballooned to an estimated $4.5 billion or more in 2017, and the company has said it plans to spend more this year. It is seeking content that can attract viewers to its Prime streaming and shopping service around the world.
Amazon’s latest film release, Late Night, bombed at the box office and has so far only brought in $11 million.
It was the first movie green-lit by Salke who was instrumental in the film’s acquisition for the studio.
Salke, alongside her execs splashed out $47 million on five films at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival including films Brittany Runs a Marathon and a documentary, One Child Nation.
Various in-house productions flopped at the box office including Beautiful Boy which grossed $7.6 million
Amazon previously enjoyed box office success with the Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea and The Big Sick which earned $42.9 million
Amazon’s latest film release, Late Night, bombed at the box officer and has so far only brought in a paltry $11 million
Amazon previously enjoyed box office success with the Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea and The Big Sick.
Manchester by the Sea earned $47.6 million domestically. The Big Sick is second with $42.9 million.
However, both of those films were distributed by third-parties on behalf of Amazon.
In terms of the marketing for Late Night, the company paid $35million.
Amazon Studios release of Woody Allen’s big-budget Wonder Wheel grossed just $1.4 million in late 2017 before the deal imploded after sexual assault allegations against the director.
Other in-house productions flopped at the box office including Peterloo which made just $152,000 and Beautiful Boy which grossed $7.6 million.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that there does not appear to have been a personality clash between marketing guru Berney and Salke.
‘There was no clash, but they came from very different worlds. He’s very indie. She’s very corporate. They were never close,’ says one source.
Amazon Studios Film Division Co-Head Ted Hope, left, Amazon Studios Head Jennifer Salke, Amazon Studios Film Division Co-Head Matt Newman, Amazon Studios Head of Marketing & Distribution Bob Berney, right, who has just left the company
With Berney’s departure, Amazon is on the hunt for his replacement.
Amazon also doesn’t have a complete solution for the films they decide to release.
Some will play in select theaters, similar to Netflix, while others will go straight to Prime for streaming only.
‘No one cares about the box office,’ says Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities. ‘And nobody ever joins Prime to get free video. They joined to get free shipping.’
What is clear is that the ‘streamers’ market is a rapidly changing marketplace.
Streaming competitors like such as Hulu and CBS All Access have emerged since, but it was Netflix that began the trend of streaming original content
Netflix completely redefined the way people watch television. Online streaming became a far more common way to consume television and gave birth to binge-watching.
Streaming competitors like such as Hulu and CBS All Access have emerged since, but it was Netflix that began the trend.
The streaming giant carved out a unique niche for itself by creating original content and although many were skeptical about the content at first, they are now among the most highly-anticipated television series.
Netflix’s original movies haven’t fared quite as well with many receiving negative or lukewarm reception from most fans and critics failing to become part of popular culture or never mind award contenders.
It is the same minefield that Amazon Prime now finds itself navigating.